Last updateMon, 26 Oct 2015 3pm

Self-healing: the best doctor you will ever meet

Some years ago, during a long flight from Oman, I contracted some kind of respiratory disease and got very sick. Doctors prescribed antibiotics and I took them while slipping deeper and deeper into a zombie-like state in which I could barely move.

I put up with this for several weeks and then went to a lab where tests were performed on my blood to see what pathogens I had in my system. By the time I got the results (about ten days later), I was feeling somewhat better.

I handed the lab report to a doctor here in Guadalajara. Wow!” he said. “This is a list of some of the deadliest viruses around. You had eleven of them, including H1N1 and H3N2, but now you're completely clear. How did you do it?”

It wasn't the antibiotics, I was told, “because they don't work against viruses.”

In my opinion, this was a dramatic example of my “self-healing system” at work, but by no means the only one. Over many years I've seen my body heal fractured ribs, free me of frequent headaches and entirely eliminate salmonella bacteria which had been hiding for years in my spleen – unreachable by antibiotics.

What I'm calling the self-healing system is usually referred to as the immune system, but because it works 24 hours a day to repair just about any anomaly that comes along, the word “immune” doesn't do justice to this inner doctor's wide-ranging expertise.

Recently, a team of doctors from Harvard University began a project to study the body's ability to heal itself. They were inspired to do this after witnessing dramatic clinical tests involving the placebo effect. In one such study, which took place in Houston, Texas, arthroscopic surgery was performed on people with a crippling knee problem. A second group of volunteers with precisely the same problem underwent a simulated operation in which cuts were made in their knees, but the cartilage-smoothing procedure required was not performed. To add realism to the simulated operation, a tape recording of the real procedure was played while the patient was under sedation.

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